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Meet Suzi Analogue, the DJ Earl Collaborator Making Hip-Hop on Hardware

The Brooklyn DJ and producer tells us about her latest beat-tape ZONEZ, scoring a hentai film, and representing women of color.

Suzi Analogue is impossible to pin down. Born Maya Simone Shipman—named appropriately after Maya Angelou and Nina Simone—the Brooklyn-based DJ and producer lives up to her name by making soulful R&B and downtempo hip-hop exclusively on hardware. This obsession landed her a sponsorship from Moog, and helped catch the eye of Teklife's DJ Earl, with whom she's working on new project called WORKFLOWW that draws from club, jazz, and ambient music. But that's not even half her story.

Analogue grew up in Petersburg, Virginia, a small town outside of Richmond. She spent most of her childhood living on a separate floor of the mental home in which her mother worked as the administrator. At the age of 10, she began recording herself reciting improvised feminist manifestos on cassette tapes—a hobby that would grow into a lifelong passion for electronic hardware.

In recent years, Analogue has been making waves with several concept-heavy endeavors, including a recent three-track release on Valentine's Day based off love letters written by Frida Kahlo and Beethoven, featuring remixes by DJ Earl, Mastah William, and Ezrakh. In 2013, she started her own cassette and mp3-only label, Never Normal Records; their projects include a hentai film scored by label artist Learnn where all of the characters were of color, deliberately bucking the racial stereotypes of Japanese anime.

Analogue's latest is a Madlib-recalling beat-tape called ZONEZ of original tracks inspired by her past, including meditations on southern hospitality and memories of her recently-passed mother. We talked to her about the concept behind the mix, the "cultural smudging" of female musicians of color, and what crazy projects she's up to next.

THUMP: What's the concept behind ZONEZ?

Suzi Analogue: The concept for ZONEZ is creating music using sounds that trigger not only auditory but visual senses. The sound is created by a woman, and each track has builds that essentially asks for the listeners to be a part of the build. It's actually an audio moodboard that's the start of a bigger experience.

How does the beattape represent where you are in your career?

These instrumentals truly show how much of a mix my life is. Inspirations from hip-hop, D&B, soul, bass, jungle—this is the first time in my career that I've been able to pull it all together so clearly and make it sound like me.

You've worked with everyone and your name seems to be everywhere right now, how do you find yourself represented as a woman of color?

As a woman of color, I have an invisibility complex. Our lifestyles are so misunderstood. Time and time again, you see lists and you're not on there. You read stories from musicians you've worked with, and somehow you're conveniently left out. It's not about getting credit; it's about someone recognizing that you actually exist in that creative context. Azealia Banks talks about it in her interviews, it's called cultural smudging.

What can we expect next from Suzi Analogue?

Next up is a new live tour centered around ZONEZ. It will be an audio visual show and I am really excited to build it, working with some electronic instrument designers to make it happen. I am also working on producing my first rap project with Nappy Nappa (who you hear on the tape), a new EP with DJ Earl for our project called WORKFLOWW, and making my own anime. My goal in all this to bridge the world of technology, music, and street culture, to give not only young women of color but everyone the chance to believe it can happen.

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